Colonia: Love and Struggle

We took a day trip across the Río Plata to Uruguay.

Why must we torture ourselves?  Yes, riding the slow boat to Colonia is not for everyone. But we have to get our visas renewed every 90 days or Argentina might banish us! Perish the thought!

Seriously, if you don’t renew your visa before your 90 days are up, you could be charged a hefty fine when you exit the country. Apparently, this fine used to be so laughable (about 30 bucks) that it was actually cheaper to pay it when you leave the country, cause you can spend a lot of plata going across the river and back, especially if you stay in Uruguay for a few days. But with all the expats thumbing their noses at migración, guess what? Last I heard, they upped the ante to $400… who’s laughing now? No prob, we’ve learned there’s always a financial solution to every bureaucratic problem in Argentina.

Show me the money, honey!

We took the slowest, cheapest ferry (about 3 hours and 40 bucks each way) to Colonia. You can relax, read, walk around; the seating area is the size of a movie theatre, with comfy, wide reclining chairs, a snack bar and café, and the best part is…. you can go upstairs for fresh air in your face!  I won’t bore you with a photo, just use your imagination… white boat, blue sky, brown water, multi-colored tourists. The best part was on the way back: we had an astronomer on board. The lights of Puerto Madero sparkled across the water  as we craned our necks on the upper deck looking at visible planets in the inky sky – Jupiter, Mars, Venus – and constellations: the Southern Cross, Orion, the Pleïades. Beautiful!

The tall guy and I find Colonia relaxing: small town, cobblestone streets, outdoor cafés, and plenty of shops selling tourist trinkets and locally made items. We know a great steak sandwich place, and there’s some pretty nice restaurants as well. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse, walk on the wharf, kick back on the waterfront…

he likes a shady spot and a cold one

I told him about an old Italian ritual where you toss salt over your left shoulder to keep evil spirits away, and he figured it couldn’t hurt!

a salty dog ritual

the pier

We came across this barely standing old stone bodega, right across the road from the rocky part of the beach, around the point from all the tourist hangouts. A big rock is holding the roof down, and a spider’s web of what looks like baling wire keeps it more or less anchored to the walls. No code violations here: this is Uruguay! Around the side is a pretty tiled name:

Rancho Don Antonio

The lovely tiles on another stone cottage (below) were installed on the 300th anniversary of the founding of Colonia (1680), dedicated by Colonia’s sister city San Fernando Maldonado. Nothing like a poet to remind us that the basic themes of human existence really haven’t changed: “COLONIA: 300 years of Love and Struggle… Over Your Rooftops Time Stood Still.”

LUCHAS Y AMOR

Does all that water flowing under the bridge lead back to the same source? Some call it karma. Like, paybacks. Those with highly-tuned survival instincts have developed impenetrable armor to protect us from the sharp spears of love and the oppressive chains of the daily grind… like this tree: Ouch!

I have NO idea what kind of tree this is!

OK, no more philosophizing. You can work it all out on the dance floor, anyway. Isn’t that where tango takes us? To each of us, from each of us, your own particular place of harmony? Polishing that diamond in the rough? Here’s an example of letting go of stuff you don’t need anymore:

a vacant lot for sale

 Some stuff just gets better with time, if it’s taken care of:

like this adorable red Fiat!

Vauxhall 12 - 1946

I’m not really sure about the production date of this vintage ride, but definitely before 1947… anybody out there have a clue? Let me know! Meantime you can pull up a chair here in Colonia, relax, and…

reprioritize your priorities!

I did!

Last minute thoughts and updates:

Friday night we were at Sin Rumbo with some friends and in walked in some awesome Bay Area milongueros: Marcelo Solis and his lovely wife Olga.

We hadn’t seen them since the workshop and milonga at Val and Mary’s last year in Pismo Beach. Great dancers and good people. We spent a few minutes catching up. And I finally got a smartphone snapshot of our friends from Villa Urquiza: Ytalo and Mercedes. This couple lives around the corner from Sin Rumbo, and have been dancing tango since they met and married 60+ years ago. They can still cut a rug!

Ytalo and Mercedes Sánchez

Last wednesday we also had the pleasure of seeing Facundo Posadas and his beautiful dance partner Ching-Ping. They took a table next to us at La Nacional; we visited.  We have taken classes with Facundo in Buenos Aires, New York, San Francisco, LA, and Sacramento. The guy gets around! (Hey! So do we!) He’s a living legend fabulous milonguero!

Tangueros from all over planet earth are in Buenos Aires this week for CITA: Congreso Internacional de Tango Argentino. What does that mean to you?  Well, if you’re here, you know that milongas which are always crowded become absolutely impenetrable! Let’s hope you’ve been practicing dancing with your partner in less than one square meter!

Ciao from Sueño Porteño in BsAs!

BA FLAT FOR RENT: a friend of mine from Italian class has a 2 bdrm 2 bath apartment for rent in Buenos Aires, a very nice flat in the neighborhood of Caballito, for a year or more, he and his wife and young daughter are taking an extended vacation with his wife’s family in Andalusía. Gustavo can be reached at: gustavogonzalezboccia@hotmail.com.

Living in Tango Paradise

Who is this guy?

I predict that Leonel Messi will be the first official consecrated and sanctified SAINT OF SOCCER!!  I don’t mean a hundred years from now, I mean, LIKE SOON! Within his and our lifetimes! Because he has a gift straight from that upstairs-place, you know, HEAVEN!!  You heard it here first! 

If you’re addicted to Tango, you’re probably interested in all things Argentine, and no doubt you already know about Leonel Messi, Argentine soccer star. Messi, currently playing for Barcelona, is golden. This kid has already made more goals than just about every soccer player in the history of the sport and, at 24, is likely to top that list before 30. Messi is not just a great player, he’s magical. He moves the ball effortlessly around, under, over and through the other team’s defenders, like Clint Eastwood shooting down 5 outlaws before they even have a chance to draw. He’s famously unpretentious, not a showoff, not a bully, just a super nice guy. Once he has the ball and is closing in on the goal, he’s not a one-man show.  He always kicks the ball to his teammates, setting them up for their own goals, but ready to take over and slide one in, and those poor goalies, they just can’t read him, and are always caught off guard. Some people have a sixth sense, others are just barely managing five, but Messi has a soccer sense! We love watching him play with his favorite toy, a soccer ball.

Uh-oh!  It’s back to that old story for a moment, yes, the ashes from volcano Puyehue, just across the border in Chile. Before we left Patagonia we took a day to drive the 7 Lakes Circuit, starting in Bariloche heading northwest. And we did drive part of it, but due to the volume of ash in the air, not to mention the bumpy dusty gravel roads, we only drove through Villa Traful, so shrouded in ash you could barely see the lake, and on to Villa Angosturas, the epicenter of volcanic fallout. Villa Angosturas is still struggling to clean up. They hauled away several feet of ash, but it’s hard to finish the job when the volcano burps and spits out another ash plume every few weeks. Tourists, the area’s main cash crop, are still visiting the lakes but their numbers are way down from previous years. In the above photo you can see for yourself. Ashy landscape en route to Villa Traful: visibility almost nil!

Hotel Llao Llao with volcanic plume

In this photo Hotel Llao Llao is to the far left on a hill. Looking across Lake Nahuel Huapi you can see a giant plume of ash. It looks like fog, but it’s not! We watched this particular plume move in our direction for about 24 hours before it enveloped us. The following day it moved on, the sky cleared, and just a trace of ash remained.

Patagonian ducks at Lago Moreno

Wild ducks were still playing house on the lakeshore, and we  took a nice walk through the Arrayanes forest to the lake pictured above. The sky was clear!

Ben in the Bosque Arrayanes

The tall guy was playing around with growing a beard, and he tried several versions which were unusual, distinctive, and even playful. Wondering how he looks now?

happy and beardless: it was collecting too much ash!

Finally back to the mecca of Tango,  we went dancing at Sunderland with good friends from San Luis Obispo!

me, Ben, Val & Mary

Do we miss our friends from the Central Coast? YES! Did we miss Buenos Aires when we were in the mountains? Yes, but we liked the quiet. Did we miss our apartment? No, not really. Did we miss a lot of tango classes? Yes. Did we miss dancing? YES!!! It’s tough to be a tango addict out in nature. Did we miss the lovely summer weather in Buenos Aires? Definitely! 80°F and humid, with frequent thunderstorms, is close to perfection. 85 – 105°F and dry with no rain for months (back home) is also very nice, but not as thirst-quenching. 65°F and windy (Bariloche) I can do without! But the cabin we stayed in was super nice: Balcón al Lago, Llao Llao.

Back in the city we have some great friends, and boy do they put on some great parties!

Dolores & Guilermo singing on a wabi-sabi guitar!

the girls are ready to go dancing!

Back in Tango paradise, we plugged into the city scene like a set of jumper cables suckin’ down juice from the Infinite Source of all Power: Tango. If you’re tired, stressed, lonely, got a headache, restless legs, whatever your issue, chances are Tango will set you straight. You know how sometimes you need to be around a crowd, even if you don’t know anybody, just to feel human again? Well I feel that way too! I prefer dancing at milongas that are not well lit. I don’t like to feel watched. There are some milongas in Buenos Aires where people dance to be seen: Salon Canning, Niño Bien, Confitería Ideal, Sunderland, Porteño y Bailarín. But I prefer the ones where you can be anonymous, like la Viruta, Sueño Porteño, Maldita Milonga, Café Vinilo, Círculo Trovador, Sin Rumbo, La Baldosa, El Tacuarí, Lo de Celia.  To name just a few. I prefer to dance with my partner, connect to my partner, connect to the music, the musicians, the floor, the community of dancers going ’round and ’round.  Then you can experience the bliss of joining the harmonious whole, the fantastic exotic universe that is Tango. You are just another pair of bodies moving around the dance floor, moving to the same beat and compás, that syncopated beat, the heart of Tango. It’s a healing, harmonious space where the music and your partner hold you close. You close your eyes and just dance.

••• Hey everybody! I hope you like my new web design, it will be even better when I figure out how to customize it. I plan to have 3 columns instead of 2. For now, baby steps!

••• Pretty soon I will no longer send out a notice to my readers. Just click the follow button to continue to receive an automatic notice when I post a new story.

••• And now you can post comments, they are visible on the home page, and I will reply! Va bene?

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Patagonia : Pampa Linda

Río Manso near its source

A few days ago we went on an overnight adventure in the loftier regions of Park Nahuel Huapi. Heading southwest from Bariloche, we drove past Lago Gutierrez and Lago Mascardi, and then turned onto a gravel road, which we followed for a couple hours of driving slowly and cautiously on dusty roads climbing up and up the precipitous slopes. We finally arrived in Pampa Linda about 4 pm.

Pampa Linda in 1927

Río Manso on the drive up

The history of Pampa Linda dates to 1907 when a Belgian doctor from Canada arrived in Bariloche.

the good doctor

He was Don José Emanuel Vereertbrugghen, the first doctor to settle in the entire Río Negro province. Don José’s only son Benito grew up and moved a few miles away from Bariloche, to the valley that lies beneath the shadow of Mount Tronador. The “thundering mountain” was so named on account of the frequent crashing noises heard when masses of ice and snow slide down off the mountaintop.

El Tronador has 7 glaciers

Benito was a born rancher. His life was all about horses and cattle, but he and his wife Clara were also very sociable and loved to entertain visitors. In 1929 they built an inn next to their modest home, calling it the Hotel Tronador. Benito and Clara’s guests were explorers, adventurers, sportsmen and fishermen who came by boat, and then on foot or by horse. Back then there were no roads in the area, and the National Parks would not exist until 1934. But after his first visit to the glaciers, Ezekiel Bustillo, National Parks director, pushed for the opening of a road into the Tronador Valley, completed in 1940.  The original Pampa Linda lodge, now the snack bar (the gettin’ place for burgers, beers and fries), was built in 1947. We stayed in the new lodge next door, built in 1993.

Hostería Pampa Linda

The dining room’s big enough to feed an army of hungry ridge crawlers, and the cozy lounge with big open fireplace is reminiscent of the Ahwahnee but not as grand. A very nice spot to kick back after a long day trekking in the wilds of Nahuel Huapi.

Benito and Clara’s granddaughter, Patricia, who is married and has a very busy 5-year-old boy, currently manages the lodge. The Tronador Valley has lovely, meandering meadows for grazing livestock, a few acres of which are open for camping, with showers, laundry, snack bar, etc. They grow fresh vegetables in season for the dining room, and have their own dairy cows for homemade cheese and flan. Lots and lots of trails are mapped out on the website with full descriptions and drop-down maps. [www.hosteríapampalinda.com.ar.]  There are a few Refugios in the high country, which are high-sierra cabins offering, literally, shelter from the storm, right up there amidst the glaciers.

another shot of El Tronador

The peak of Mt. Tronador [11,500 ft.] is the dividing line between Argentina and Chile. They say it is a dormant volcano. Is that anything like a sleeping dragon? Scientists believe it is not likely to explode in our lifetimes, but, heck, the volcano next door in Chile (Puyehue) sure blew her top a few months ago. I don’t think I’ll invest in any property within a hundred miles… would you?

Some pretty sights on the way there:

loose horse at Lago Mascardi

a wild guanaco, cousin to the llama

We drove in from LlaoLlao, a 5-hour drive, and rewarded ourselves with (of course!) burgers and fries at the snack bar. We checked into our room, which had an awesome and inspiring view of the mountain. We climbed back into the car just before the sun went down, and drove a few km up to see the Black Glacier.  Not exactly hard-core trekkers, are we?

Black Glacier

The sun was getting ready to go down and when it finally slipped behind the crest we were able to get a few pictures of the glacier and the lake with floating dark icebergs, full of ground up rocks and dirt that gives it its color, and name.

old cabins at Pampa Linda

Later that same evening we had dinner in the lodge. We had a table next to the window. The moon rose over Mt. Tronador, casting its bright light upon the mountain, and reflecting that beautiful glow down upon us. Later we sat on a couch in the lounge, next to the fire, and chatted with a couple who live in Puerto Madryn, farther south, on the Atlantic. They rode horses up to the Castaño Overo glacier, and then hiked on foot another 2 hours to the Otto Meiling Refuge. We did the same ride the next morning, but we went down the way we’d come up: on horseback! and took lots of pictures!

crossing Río Manso

We tied the horses in a little grove not far from the glacier, and walked to the lookout. We ate apples washed down with black coffee. The Río Manso, which emerges from the glacier, has strikingly milky green waters, due to its particular blend of glacial sediment. It is very cold and swift moving as it heads on down to the valley, and later flows past the continental divide into Chile, and eventually to the Pacific.

an awesome view!

Our guide on the ride up was a Chilean named Miguel who works at Pampa Linda, and his dog Tronador (same as the mountain):

Miguel & Tronador

We learned that the caña verde that grows along the trails in the mountains is a kind of grass that looks like bamboo. It’s as if you’re riding through a drive-by feed store. Ranchers feed it to their horses in winter, dried and stored. How cool is that? My horse tried to snag a few bites as we rode along, but I whispered to him, “sorry darlin’, snack bar’s closed today.”

free for the grazing

Other fascinating sights in the high country include this old flatbed. I guess it still runs, the key was in it. Nothing a little duct tape and baling wire can’t fix!

the dog is about as old as the truck

an International?

Riding back down to the lodge we followed an old trail through the meadows and creekbed. We came across some loose horses and mules belonging to the Pampa Linda stables. They do pack trips up into the mountains for 3-day and 5-day rides. The horses work one day on, one day off during summer, unless they’re out on a long ride.

she looks pregnant to me... ya think?

Patagonian wild ducks

Ben has been enjoying the thrills of fly-fishing: waiting for trout (brown, rainbow, and brook) to swim up and nibble the hook (special non-damaging hooks) from colorful little hand-tied flies. Perhaps we could start a new trend in earrings when the current feather craze is over, with cute fuzzy flies and other insect earring and hair ornaments, realistic enough to scare off the real flies and mosquitos! Body piercers would be in avant-goth heaven! The downside of fly-fishing is, I hear, losing your flies, snagging the line, and having to throw the fish back in!

fish like them!

There are only a few spots in Nahuel Huapi where you can actually keep a full-grown fish. That should make all of you animal protectors happy. And there are fish hatcheries all over the place. The little spawnlings are released into the lakes and rivers to keep all the tourist fishermen and fisherwomen happy. I can attest that fresh grilled trout is amazingly delicious!

I have learned 5 new species of trees: the huge, straight and tall ñire with shaggy bark; the straight and tall coíhue with beautiful oak-like branches way up high in the sky (it has a smoother bark); the arrayán, a cinnamon-colored cousin of the peely-bark madrone; the lenga, tall and slender, reminiscent of birch but not so white, beloved of elves; and the jacaranda, its lilac-violet blossoms seen all over Buenos Aires.

Yes, we are having one heck of a fabulous time here in Patagonia! This is the kind of place that makes you want to saddle up and ride the Andean version of the Pacific Crest Trail. If someone organizes it, I’ll sign up! I’m not kidding, either! but we’d have to ride into town to tango.

Next blog up: I spend a day horseback on the Estancia San Ramón.

Ciao from Patagonia!

10 Reasons to Go to College

This is for all you kids out there who think there’s a million + 1 reasons NOT to go to college. Like, you’re having too much fun; you’re making better money dealing drugs; (or you just wanna get high)  you’re too busy working at BurgerHell (yum!  …NOT!); you’re in jail (oh but you WILL work in jail, otherwise known as slave or indentured labor); you really like your job at Wal-Mart; you’re too busy watching tv; or you’re permanently tethered to some pint-size electronic gizmo…. LISTEN UP!!!  You might want to think about what the next fifty years will look like if you keep working for back-breaking, low pay wages. Consider your options:

Field work is always needed, if you’re cool with being exploited from sunup to sundown.

rice planting is labor-intensive

Here’s some other possibilities for you to consider.  You could make spare change selling Simpsons bubble blowers on Florida Ave. in Buenos Aires:

professional bubble blower

Or you could haul trash and recyclables:

el cartonero

Or maybe you’d like to scrape outdated flyers off public surfaces…

how many does it take to....

Passing out advertisements for lunch specials is always special…

Eat at Albondigas R Us!

But handing out flyers right across from Zival’s (aka the Tango Store, the gettin’ place for Tango music!) is a cut above:

streethawker

And while recycling is a positive contribution to the environment, the hours are long, the pay a joke, the benefits nonexistent:

going through trash to find recyclables

Here’s another recycler with a nice cart, but lugging it all over town isn’t doing your back, or your wallet, any favors.

recycler

Selling toys that go splat! and then reshape themselves (like the bad guy in Terminator II) sounds like fun and you get to meet lots of people:

kids love'em!

Maybe you’ve got undiscovered talent!  Like this guy who plays percussion on plastic containers for small change:

I could be a star!

I didn’t get a photo of the kids who juggle in front of cars at stoplights, but here’s a sad wabi-sabi Peugot just waiting to be recycled:

Oops! I mean a Citroën!

If you like to walk in the park, and enjoy playing Top Dog, you just might find true happiness as a Dog Walker:

arf arf! woof woof!

To all you young people reading this blog, listen up:  STAY in SCHOOL! Don’t sell yourself short!  You can do something really awesome with your life!  And remember, the best helping hand is the one at the end of your arm!!

you too are capable!

I’ll leave you with a very happy tree planted by somebody just like you, helping to make your city greener and cleaner, like a breath of fresh air! How cool is that?

newly planted tree in our barrio

Wise words from Ben’s dad: “you go to school to learn to think.”  Think about it!

Today’s post written by Willow and inspired by Ben.

at Sueño Porteño

Felíz Año Nuevo!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

¡Felices Fiestas!

The famous Teatro Colón in early December: not a holiday decoration in sight!  Likewise all over town, a few Xmas decorations in shop windows, but not much…  here it is just a few days to Christmas and Santa and his merry Elves are still lying low.  Apparently Argentina hasn’t yet caught on to creating a mass marketing spectacle of their holidays. Let’s hope they keep it that way.

Teatro Colón

On my birthday Ben took me to the opera!  We saw La Viuda Alegre, a light, romantic operetta by Hungarian Franz Lehár (1870 – 1948).  A fine production, a full house…beautiful costumes, live orchestra, superb singers… thanks, baby!  I’ve always loved opera, and to see one in an exquisite, historic and richly decorated opera house… (where Maria Callas performed!) well, it just doesn’t get any better!  Considered one of the top five opera houses in the world for its phenomenal acoustics, the Teatro Colón’s latest restoration and technological modernisation began in 2006, and it reopened on May 24, 2010 — the Argentine bicentennial. However, the sidewalk facing Avenida 9 de Julio is still all dug up, looks like a lot of pipes are being replaced.  So many illustrious composers have directed the productions of their own works in the Teatro Colón:  Camille Saint-Saens, Igor Stravinsky, Manuel de Falla, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, to name just a fraction…  And the singers: Caruso, Callas, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Plácido Domingo, Renato Scotto, Beverly Sills, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, José Van Dam, Renée Fleming… the few names I’m familiar with, amongst a host of others.  Not to mention the dancers who’ve performed there, the operas and concerts…. WOW!!  I’m a lucky girl.

6 levels of balconies

the gorgeous stage

During the two intermissions we wandered about, found a little upstairs café, and enjoyed people watching.  Spying on our own kind, you know, look at what she’s wearing!  (I wore green) and peeking into the back of opera boxes.

After the opera we wandered over to Sin Rumbo and danced till 3.  We sat next to a couple we always seem to sit next to, and I hate to admit I don’t know their names, and haven’t taken their picture, but they are a couple who has been dancing tango together for 60 years (when they met and married!) and they live right around the corner!  They look so good dancing together, they move really nicely around the dance floor. True Love Tango style.  Does it qualify as an Addiction?  

Last blog I promised a photo of the other cátedral…. not Sin Rumbo, la Cátedral de Tango, out in Villa Urquiza, no.   I mean the OTHER Cátedral that I wrote about in my last blog; the young, eclectic, wabi-sabi hip hothouse of nuevo:

La Cátedral en el barrio de Almagro

I think a lot of you Central Coasters recognize this tanguera: our good friend Arlene from Santa Barbara!  She’s a lifelong dancer and dance teacher, and has been coming to Buenos Aires for many years.  Her daughter and family are my neighbors in Santa Margarita.

Arlene

Arlene flew in for 5 days and nights of tango!  Here we are enjoying the Japanese Gardens:

a beautiful day at el Jardín Japonés

We milonga’d with Arlene five nights in a row and then she had to fly back.  Those darn tickets you get for your miles, you can never get the flights you want!  Here she is with one of her dance partners, Adrian.

the AA Club: members only

A couple of days before Arlene arrived we took the ferry ride to Colonia. A sweet one-night getaway!  The weather was gorgeous, in the eighties, calm waters and blue skies.

A

the pool is on the lower terrace to left

You know, renew the visas again, the expat shuffle.  Our B&B, Posada San Antonio, was really nice and there’s a pool too, over by those umbrellas.  You can see the river Plate in the background.  El Río de la Plata.  Go look at a map!

Viva Uruguay!

I’m decked out in seashells to honor Neptune and his platoons of sirenitas (mermaids).

our B&B in the evening

We took the ferry ride home the next day, relaxed and feeling like kids.

Back at Niño Bien!

Speaking of kids, this cute mini belongs to a kid on our block.

You can't go wrong with basic black and white.

Yeah, I photo-shopped these pix.  The light was so bright!

love the grille

And since it’s almost Christmas, please please everybody remember your families and loved ones, appreciate them, be thankful for them. Yesterday I was reading the paper and saw these pictures, one of a 30 year old woman, an attorney, who disappeared; the other of a young man in his twenties, also disappeared.

In Argentina back in the 1970s under an oppressive military government, tens of thousands of children and young people were “disappeared.”  Most of them were murdered, some of the littlest ones were handed off to other families and they were raised without knowing about their real families.  You’ve probably heard of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, the mothers, sisters, wives, grandmothers of the disappeared.  They have never quit protesting ever since those times, demanding the return of their loved ones, banging on their pots and pans throughout the city, demanding information, demanding justicia!  A couple of blocks from us is an old house that’s been turned into a school of the arts, and kids are out there from time to time painting the wall.  They’ve turned it into a beautiful and touching collective space for remembering their loved ones:

hijos perdidos 1- lost children collective

lost children 2

lost children 3

lost children 4

Let us not forget.

* * * * * * *

Food for thought:  is Tango the dance or the music?

Listen up, Readers!  For New Year’s I’m going to publish the Tango Addicts Anonymous Post.

I’ve received some great stories, but I NEED MORE!!!  I guess some people just can’t get anything done WITHOUT A DEADLINE! (myself included).  SO, write up your stories, make it 30 words or less if you’re a minimalist, but just GET IT DONE and SEND IT IN!  ANONYMITY GUARANTEED!  I PROMISE!

Send it to <runninghawk.willow@gmail.com>.  Thanks a bunch!  Ü

Merry Christmas from Buenos Aires!

Back on the radar

Greetings from Buenos Aires!

Springtime in the city could not be more beautiful than it is right now.

Jacarandas in the Palermo Bosques

The city is blooming, blossoming, growing and greening up everywhere.

a favorite corner of our barrio

los Jardines Botánicos

People are outside en masse.  On the weekend bikini-clad girls catch rays on the “beach” grass at Parque Las Heras, which means the boys aren’t exactly in hiding, either.  Our neighborhood Latin lover in the cute French mansion across the street struck this pose one warm day: (click to enlarge!)

have a nice day!

Do I have a view or what?

Meanwhile, the tango scene shifts from chilly to hot!!  and whether or not your favorite milonga has a substantial AC system becomes a major comfort factor.  Milongas with plenty of cool air:  Sin Rumbo, Sueño Porteño, la Catedral, La Milonguita, Porteño y Bailarín, El Beso, La Viruta, Niño Bien.

What a wild ride we’ve been on lately!  We dropped off the radar due to an unforeseen medical crisis.  My tango partner is much better now, and healing up from surgery.  In fact he’s watching his favorite tv show as I sit here and blog: the soccer channel.  The weather lately has been humid and warm, in the low 80s, with frequent warm tropical thunderstorms.  What delightful weather!   How spontaneously it transforms this great city!

our street blossoms!

The nice weather is perfect for vintage vehicle viewing:

This clean baby blue Fiat is tinler than my Mini Cooper! My ex-mini, that is.  Don’t you hate it when your car makes it to almost 150,000 miles and then gives up the ghost?  Yes, it happened to me. So sad. But, what the heck, who needs a car here in this public transportation paradise?

Red Isetta

Anyhow, when I get back to the states I think I’ll look for an Isetta! If it breaks down I can probably hitch my horse up to that front bumper. And if the obsolete post-industrial technology of a 1-cylinder gas motor really pisses you off (you tree-hugger you!) how about a multi-tasking red trike?

dolly parking?

Oops!  wait a sec….  I almost forgot to upload this one-of-a-kind Isetta RV:

can we be camp hosts at Legoland?

Your house mouse could drive this!  Didn’t Stewart Little leave Central Park in one of these, on his first excursion?  His first brave blast-off into the unknown?

We have seen some great music lately, though we have not been dancing as much. A temporary setback, friends, not to worry!  Sometimes you just wake up one day and find yourself on a strange bunny trail. Or you were already on the journey without realizing it. Turning back is not an option, so you keep going, and if you find yourself at “the garden of forking paths” (great story by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges), it’s a good sign, because you begin to see new options peeking through doors A, B & C, opening to adventures you’ve never even dreamed of!  All of a sudden you’re looking at the world through a remarkably different lens.  The universe has gifted you a re-positioning of your cosmic road map!

Here’s the happy guy, after the doctor told him he could leave the hospital the next morning:

I'm outta here!

Ben wanted go dancing his first night out of the hospital.  How can you say no to a guy who just got out of lock-down?  We danced a little… and enjoyed just being together with no medical staff in sight.  Here he is in the doctor’s office, helping buy another Ferrari:

he loves Italian food, cars & women

The other night we saw Los Primos Gabino with Fado/Tango singer Karina Beorlegui at Catedral. Their music is an inspired mix of tango nuevo and fado. I don’t mean a melding of the genres; some of the songs were fado (no one danced to those, except for a beautiful demo), and some were tangos (people danced). We liked them very much. And Catedral? I love that milonga, not for its dance floor, which is hazardous, but for its essential wabi-sabi nature (I see the sabi, but where’s the wabi? says Ben). Very funky to say the least, but also glorious in that transcendent industrial-artsy-chic sort of way. I’ll try to get in there early one day and take some photos while there’s some natural light. The massive inflated red plastic beating heart the size of a volkswagen hanging from the rafters could be the photo of a lifetime. Looks like someone borrowed my old vacuum cleaner hose to make the arteries running in and out. I’m not kidding!

Another cool spot about town is La Esquina Aníbal Troilo. It’s a café-restaurant full of art and memorabilia of the famous bandoneon player. Troilo kind of turned into a toad when he grew up — an Argentine Diego Rivera, full of genius but not a looker!  — yet he recorded some of the best music of Tango’s golden age.  The café is downtown, on the corner of Paraná and Paraguay.  There’s a bust of Troilo across the street. Don’t go there for the food, but the coffee’s good and the decor is priceless.

who is that guy?

Troilo with bandoneon

lotsa stuff on the walls

a few familiar faces?

tortas y empanadas, vino y queso

my favorite - Troilo with his dog!

Esquina Aníbal Troilo is a block from Corrientes, and only a couple of blocks from Zival’s on Callao and Corrientes: the holy shrine of Tango CDs!

On Halloween my dear friend Roxy arrived from California.  We sure had some catching up to do!

hanging out in the apartment

We explored tango shoe shops, focusing on those with working AC units:  NeoTango, Darcos, Flabella.  A week later another friend from California dropped in:  la divina tanguera  Lynne from Santa Cruz.

So little time, so many shoes....

And Roxy, aka 365 Days of Tango, a seriously addicted milonguera from Los Altos (hey!  that’s where I’m from!), at Darcos:

I think I'll take all of them!

How hot are these?  NeoTango has a definite edge!

bendito glam!

Our first night on the town with my homegirl, we went to Café Vinilo to see Orquesta Victoria, one of our favorite young up-and-coming tango orchestras.

Orquesta Victoria at La Milonga del Bonzo

The singer is Augustín Fuertes, of the Fuertes-Varnerín duo.  Besides being a really good tango singer, he has a streak of stand-up comic that’s too funny!

unveiling their new CD

They just got back from their 3rd European tour.  Here is the other half of the duo, Ariel Varnerín.  He has his own style, great voice, not as flashy.  The two of them could be Don Quijote and Sancho Panza!  I love their fast-paced duos with guitars and voices in harmony.

Ariel Varnerín

After La Milonga del Bonzo we took Roxy to Canning.

I can't believe I'm finally here!

to the nines!

Roxy and I had an adventure the day we went to check out Pulpo’s apartment.  You’ve probably heard of him or taken a class — Norberto Esbrez, el Pulpo (the octopus: known for his slinky leg wraps and other sinuous tango moves).  We picked up Pulpo’s good friend Marcela. She’s an awesome tango dancer, teacher, judge of tango competitions, and the keeper of the keys to the apartment.  Since Pulpo is usually away teaching tango, his apartment is empty most of the time, and he offered it to Roxy.  Well, we sure had a hard time getting inside. The door had three different keyholes, and we couldn’t get the various keys to work.  After about twenty minutes we were praying and singing and finally… poof! like magic! … it opened.

Marcela surveying the broken lock

We went in and surveyed the mess, the apparent emptiness and piles of unwanted stuff left behind by someone who had broken in.  The vibes were wierd, disconnected, discordant.  We opened up windows and the doors to the balcony to let some fresh air in but the breeze didn’t seem to help… the street was noisy, the air was full of exhaust fumes and dust from Puyehue, the volcano in Chile that’s been spewing ash all the way to the Atlantic. Luckily Pulpo’s box of tango shoes was still there:

and you thought girls were shoe-crazy?

it looks better in the photo

We decided the place was not going to be ready for the girls to move into any time soon.  We thought we could just leave and lock the door and be done with it, at least for the time being.  Wrong!  We couldn’t even get the door shut!  It was really heavy and the top hinge pin was broken off. The door was hanging away from the frame and dragging on the floor. We tried to push it up and back into place but it was too heavy.  I began to think we had morphed into a scary movie!  We couldn’t get out of there!

where's the crowbar?

Roxy thought she could lever the door up with a plastic squeegee. You go, girl!  At this point we were all desperately hungry, and desperate to get out of there!  Not to mention laughing hysterically like zombies on auto-pilot.  Just look at them!  Twinkling like a pair of house elves!

we tango and work on doors!

Roxy and I finally got away but Marcela had to stick around until the locksmith showed up.  A few days later Lynne and Roxy found a sweet apartment a few blocks away from us.

lounging streetside at VoulezBar

We had a some really fun all girls’ days…

jacked up on coffee

and girls’ nights out!

Roxy finds her Romeo

So sad they had to go home so soon!  So lucky I can stay here in this beautiful city of a thousand nights!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

A Visit to the Pampas

I never meant to blog about itty-bitty cars, but sometimes things just happen. Perhaps if I had a kitten to play with, or a horse that needed riding…  I had to find a horse to ride, to be sure, but the little blue car found me.

my Isetta getting a green energy transfusion

DEAR FRIENDS and WILLOWTANGO.ME FOLLOWERS: Hundreds of you are responding to this post as if it’s the only post you can see!! If you like this post and want to read more, go to <willowtango.me> And please, no responses marketing your product line or personal fetishes!!

QUERIDOS AMIGOS de WILLOWTANGO.ME: Cientos de vosotros, mis queridos lectores, están respondiendo a este post como si fuera la única!! Si les gusta este post y quieren leer más, hagan clic en <willowtango.me>. Y por favor, no me hablan de sus intereses publicitarias ni sus fetiches personales!!

No, it’s not my Isetta.  If it was I would spoil it with some much-needed TLC. Please note that the front of the car doubles as the entry. This baby is a one cylinder, 4-wheeler ragtop. Here she is cuddling up to a pickup. How cute is that?

which do you like better, the front or the rear?

Ben discovered it while walking from our apartment to his Spanish class in Palermo Soho.  Apparently it’s parked in some kind of cosmic waiting room, patiently awaiting restoration and rebirth.  Perhaps its mantra could be… I’m so cute I can tango on 3 wheels?

sweet view from a wabi-sabi world

There can’t be very many of these microcars left.  But thousands were produced in post WWII Europe.  Skip the next paragraph if you’re not totally fascinated by this Barbie car.

The Isetta was an Italian-designed micro-car built in a number of different countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany, and the UK. Produced in the post-World War II years, a time when cheap short-distance transportation was most needed, it became one of the most successful and influential city cars ever created.

The car originated with the Italian firm of Iso-SpA. In the early 1950s the company was building refrigerators, motor scooters and small three-wheeled trucks. Iso’s owner, Renzo Rivolta, decided he would like to build a small car for mass distribution. By 1952 the engineers Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi had designed a small car that used the scooter engine and named it Isetta—an Italian diminutive meaning little ISO.

The Isetta caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press inTurin in November 1953. It was unlike anything seen before. Small (only 2.29 m (7.5 ft) long by 1.37 m (4.5 ft) wide) and egg-shaped, with bubble-type windows, the entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry. In the event of a crash, the driver and passenger were to exit through the canvas sunroof. The steering wheel and instrument panel swung out with the single door, as this made access to the single bench seat simpler. The seat provided reasonable comfort for two occupants, and perhaps a small child. Behind the seat was a large parcel shelf with a spare wheel located below. A heater was optional, and ventilation was provided by opening the fabric sunroof. The first prototypes had one wheel at the rear; this made the car prone to roll-overs, so they placed two rear wheels 48 cm (19 in) apart from each other.

BMW bought the Isetta license from ISO SpA in 1954.  They bought the complete Isetta body tooling as well.  The BMW Isetta was in 1955 the world’s first mass-production 3-Liters/100km car. It was the top-selling single cylinder car in the world, with 161,728 units sold. After constructing some 1,000 units, production of the Italian built cars ceased in 1955, although Iso continued to build the Isetta in Spain until 1958.  (compiled from Wikipedia)

Even in its present sad condition, this Isetta has a bright future!  and is probably worth a few bucks.

Do you see the little face?

So sweet of the man in my life to take these photos for me.  You could say he found a clever way to get back in my good graces, after a little spat about who knows what?!  Here he is asking for forgiveness:

on his knees at the Gallerias

Not blue anymore, but wearing blue! at our favorite café by Plaza San Martín:

blue sky and sunshine!

Now we’re going on a day trip to the Pampas! First stop, San Antonio de Areco, about 120 km. northwest of Buenos Aires. This beautiful colonial pueblo was settled in 1730. The bici is not quite that old!

two-wheelers can have significant curb appeal also

The bici decorates the sidewalk in front of one of the best trattorias in town, La Esquina de Merti. My hosts, Flavia and Fabio, who also happen to be our landlords in town, brought me out to the country for an afternoon of sightseeing and horseback riding. Here’s the beautiful shady plaza:

Plaza Gómez

A typical street on a very quiet day in San Antonio de Areco.

Fabio at El Tokio

The church looks like an vacant gray stone palace.  Spooky and grim, even in the sunshine!

Nuestra Señora de Loreto

It’s prettier on the inside. The main altar is quite beautiful. We were the only people inside the church, on a Tuesday about 1:00 pm. This town is definitely not overrun with tourists! Maybe on the weekends.

el altar mayor

Flavia and me sightseeing

We were fortunate to find the leather shop open. Besides the handmade leather goods, there were bridles, reatas, cinchas, stirrups, tapaderos, ponchos… lots of stuff. Many of the tools hanging on the wall or lying about the workshop were antiques still in use. We chatted with the craftsman at his workbench, and he showed us how he stamps a design into leather using a metal punch.

the artesano working at his trade

cowboy socks’n’spurs?

In the really old days (we’re not talkin’ 1950s here! more like 1750s!) out here in the pampas, they didn’t have boots. They just wrapped rawhide around their legs and feet. They left the toe part open cause back then their stirrups were a rawhide reata hanging down from the saddle with a big rawhide braided knot on the end that you stuck in between your big toe and second toe. Kind of a toe wedgie! Doesn’t sound as comfy as a real stirrup, does it? Of course they didn’t spend a day’s wages to have their horses shod, either. Come to think of it, the campesinos back then didn’t get paid wages at all. That was back in the days before organized labor.

Rawhide, when it’s wet, can be stretched taut (as in drum making); when it dries, it’s stiff as a board and extremely sturdy. You can cut it in a giant spiral which results in narrow strips anywhere from 30 – 60 feet long depending on the size of the hide. Braiding a number of those strands together creates reatas, reins, bosals, bridles, etc. All the gear you ever dreamed of having!

Argentine bridles

These are the saddles we’ll be riding later today. No frills, no saddle horn, either. In an emergency, just grab some mane!

a Chilean saddle: no frills, wooly sheepskin keeps you warm

As we drive into the rancho the first thing we see is a bunch of horses tied up amongst the trees:

all tied up and waiting to be ridden

we go past a marvellous treehouse!

Pulling into the stable area the horses in the barn stick their heads out to see who’s coming:

howdy

The barn is new, built of cement and brick, with a metal roof. It has 5 stalls, a tack room, a bathroom with shower, and a tiny kitchen area with sink. The stall doors are wood, as is the framing and the shutters.

the front of the barn

We saddled up and went for a ride!  The sun was playing tag with the clouds, but it was warm with a slight breeze. Everywhere you look it’s green! We were about 60 or 70 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. Santiago is wearing polo boots and riding britches; he competes on the hunter-jumper circuit.

Santiago, Flavia’s hunter-jumper instructor

Flavia is our horse-crazy landlady!  She and I hit it off from day 1. Here she is on a pretty red dun, holding his head very nicely.  The helmet protects her coco loco. She and I could sit and talk horses all day long.

Flavia on a red dun

Here I am on a nice little grey gelding. When we were just walking along he wanted to lag behind the pack, but when we were loping, he moved right up to the front every time!

me on Gitano

We rode for about an hour and a half. By the time we came upon this windmill and got thru the gate, we could see the clouds piling up. The rain was comin’!

a working windmill

We kicked our horses into gear and loped the last few hundred yards in the rain. Now that’s my idea of fun! After we unsaddled and got the horses put away, we hunkered down in the barn in some comfy canvas chairs to dry off while our host brewed up some mate. We passed it around, sucking it down thru the silver bombilla. Good medicine. This was our view out the barn door:

sweet view

You can just barely make out a gorgeous caballo criollo in this stall:

chewable stall doors

I like the clean, earthy design, but… but what if your horses decides to punch a hole in it with a double-barrel kick?  Here’s the ranch manager’s casita:

see the tri-color tail on the left?

I have to share a funny comment from my brother Kim:  “Hi Sis, I am really enjoying your tango blogs…  You are a great writer!  Not a bad photographer either (must have gotten that from Grandpa).  In the future please try to provide more photos of beautiful women instead of just guys, cowboys, etc.”  

Okay, bro, this one’s for you!  Ciao from Buenos Aires!

La Puta Qué?

Did you ever read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne?  We skipped over to Uruguay for the day and saw a tagged paint mare: you can see PUTA in capital letters on her neck.  I think you all know what that means!  We didn’t notice any apparent misbehaving tendencies at first glance but then horses can really fool you!

la muy puta yegua

Along came a casual tropical cowboy who proceeded to mount up and move the group of foragers a few yards down the road.  It was a pretty day and I was happy to see some horses just hanging out along a back road.  We were cruising on a junky old moto that we rented for $18 for the day, electrical issues, bald tires, no speedometer, no deposit, no problem!

local cowboy

The day trip across the river is known as the expat shuffle: you take a ferry across the river, go thru customs in Uruguay (what a joke that is!) and, depending on your inclinations, stroll the quaint colonial era pueblo, shop till you drop, do the waterfront pub crawl, climb to the top of the faro (lighthouse), head for the beach, or (most popular option) get on a bus to Montevideo.

After the hour trip across the Río de la Plata, we disembarked and walked into town.  We passed an ultramodernist new tourist center, not quite finished yet.  We set off the alarm when we walked up and onto the deck…  howdy folks!  the gringos are here!

tourist trap

Colonia is a pretty tourist town.  Some folks joke about it being a “dead” town and I see their point but, heck, Uruguay needs all the help ($$) it can get!   The only thing they have going for them are some cool beaches and hot soccer players.  There’s a sweet harbor on the river, a lighthouse (we made it all the way to the top!) shops, cafés, restaurants, boutique hotels, tour guides.  We skipped the tour.  I’m the official tour guide, naturally.  Who else would have noticed the horses?

Lucky us, it was a beautiful balmy day at the lighthouse.  We climbed it.

el faro

We circled it.

the bullring

Ben was happy as a clam to be riding a scooter, he didn’t care where we went!  (He says it’s not quite like his F4, though.)  Here he is at the top of the lighthouse, with helmet:

At the beach…

did we miss the tsunami warning?

strolling around town…

checking out the microcar

We saw picturesque old adobes that reminded me of San Juan Bautista, back home in California.

we take VISA!!

bisected house

Café El Santo

pretty stone facade with jasmine

Okay, is it bothering you that this post is turning into Better Homes & Gardens?  Sunset South?  Well, too bad, cause I just love old historic buildings!  especially when they’re kept up nicely…  here’s some more:

Posada Plaza Mayor

Adobe colorado

old Mission

No lack of cool old cars to cruise those cobblestone Colonia streets:

what make is it? somebody help me out!

10 oct. Flash:  a Studebaker by all accounts!  Thanks to April in New Mexico, Jack in San Luis Obispo, and Arlene in Santa Barbara!  You guys rock!

awesome truck from the... 40s?

And a café-bar by the old stone lighthouse.  How cool is that?  The hungry thirsty hordes had not yet gathered when I took this picture:  Or they got stuck listening to the droning nazi tour guide.

ye old lighthouse watering hole

When I finally stepped off the back of the moto my knees were weak, my feet were numb, and it felt like my hipbones needed resetting.  Kinda like getting thrown off a rank horse and trying to get back on your feet so you can go catch the sonofabitch!   We walked a few steps past that amazing stone tower onto the wharf, past the yacht club office, and onto the terrace of the Yacht Club restaurant.  What a view!

Are we having fun yet?

Oops, forgot to put a view in.  Here we go.

the view from the top

We ate seafood pasta, salad, a bottle of wine, dessert… the works!  A sweet getaway. Towards the end of the afternoon the herd instinct kicked in, we answered a few mournful cow calls, and allowed ourselves to be herded back to the mother ship.  The ferry, that is, the S.S. Colonia Express.  As we closed in on the big beautiful city, I took a picture of this old slow-sinking rustbucket still moored in La Boca harbor.

the wabi-sabi mother ship

Being away from town for a day was no big deal, but I can well imagine the desperation one might feel being gone too long from the glorious night-life of this throbbing music lover’s paradise.  Seriously, we find music everywhere we go!  Friday evening we walked into a local restaurant, and found ourselves listening to a young woman singing arias from Carmen and La Bohéme, with live piano and violin accompaniment.  Opera never fails to bring tears to my eyes!  Live music is a total body experience, you feel it with all your senses, not just your ears.  Every molecule you own vibrates with sound, sinking deeply into body and spirit.  Positively transcendent!

Yesterday, having coffee after our tango class at a café we frequent by Plaza San Martín, we opened our eyes and saw that they have Friday night Jazz, and live Tango on Saturdays. The cultural richness of Buenos Aires is really inspiring.  So many young musicians, you see them walking around with instrument cases, getting on the subte or collectivo. We saw these guys on the subway today on our way home from a solidarity festival at Parque Avellaneda.

subte músicos

Ben’s spanish teacher plays percussion and trombone in a band we saw today at the park, Orkesta Popular San Bomba.  Way to go!  They have a great singer and a great Latin sound, but their sound system was a complete disaster.  We will check them out again when they get their act together!

Orkesta San Bomba at Parque Avellaneda

Somehow the future isn’t quite as scary anymore, seeing the next generation so present and engaged in the creation of a world culture that knows no borders, and whose currency is music!   Speaking of young musicians, we’ve been to some great live music at various places…  this is CAFF (Club Atlético Fernández Fierro), a former auto repair shop.  It has the funkiest club entrance ever, like out of a Batman movie:

Yes, that’s me in my spring Batgirl outfit.  Here are a couple of shots from the show at CAFF:

Dema y su Orquesta Petitera

at CAFF

Dema is hysterically funny and was wildly applauded.  He’s kind of a cross between Tom Waits and Giancarlo Giannini in Swept Away (a film by Lina Wertmüller).  Jaded but innocent, desperate yet full of macho bravura.   Check him out on uTube!

One of our favorites: Orquesta Victoria at Café Vinilo:

Orquesta Típica La Victoria

Orchestra La Victoria has a piano, clarinet, cello, contrabajo, 2 bandoneons, 3 violins, and two singers (Fuertes and Varnerín) who do amazing tango duets, just like the singers of  the old days!  (Listen to Pregonera, Pastora, Remolino… sung by the duo of Carlos Dante and Julio Martel, Orquesta Alfredo de Angelis.)  This youthful tango orquesta plays mostly classic tango but also some nuevo, in the genre of Piazzolla.  They are way cool and we love them!

Well, friends, despite lots of late night dancing, serious lack of sleep, tango classes, yoga class, Italian class, running in the park, and walking, walking, walking all over town… not to mention spending hours writing and posting my blog…  I seem to be thriving!  must be Ben’s good cooking!  Oh, and my favorite gelato flavors of the month? … dolcatta, tramontana, and dulce de leche granizado… and zabayón!  and the delightful spring weather!

Please don’t forget to send your Tango Addiction stories to me at <runninghawk.willow@gmail.com>.  I now have my very own web address: <willowtango.me>.   Click the “follow” button!   Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Willow at El Santo